Residents share concerns about request to vacate Sunrise Court apartments

Photo by Deb Gau Austin Payne and Josh Prine talked to fellow residents at the Sunrise Court apartments in Marshall on Saturday. Residents received letters on Thursday asking them to vacate their apartments by Oct. 19 because of heating repairs.

MARSHALL — Residents at the Sunrise Court apartment complex were left with a lot of questions, and not many answers, this weekend after they received letters asking them to vacate the apartments. But while the future was uncertain, some residents are saying they should keep paying rent and being good tenants in the meantime.

Around 30 people attended two tenant-organized meetings on Saturday afternoon, while kids played on the jungle gym in Sunrise Court’s central courtyard. Sunrise Court residents like Josh Prine and Austin Payne tried to get the community together after residents received letters taped to their doors on Thursday.

The letters said they were from the management of Suite Liv’n, the new owners of Sunrise Court. The letters also said the heating in the apartment complex had failed and needed to be replaced. All tenants were being asked to vacate the building by Oct. 19. The letters said there would be no rent for October, and tenants were welcome to re-apply for an open apartment in the spring.

Some of the tenants at the meeting, including Prine, said they hadn’t had problems with their heating last winter.

“I think this is just a ploy to get people out,” Payne said.

“Morally and ethically, it’s just atrocious,” Payne said. “I don’t know where they think everyone’s gonna go.” With Marshall being a small town and classes currently in session at Southwest Minnesota State University, the options for finding another vacant apartment are limited, he said.

Trying to move in the space of a month is “no joke” in the Marshall area, said Sunrise Court resident Kenneth Lam. Lam said he found the Suite Liv’n letter on his door when he came home from work. Lam said he had plans to move for a job offer, “But if I didn’t have that offer, I would be freaked out.”

Sunrise Court resident Hamid Ullah said when he found the Suite Liv’n letter on his door, “At first I thought somebody was joking. But then I saw it on other doors.”

Ullah said he worried what the request for tenants to vacate would mean for families living in the complex.

Other tenants said they weren’t sure why they were being asked to leave Sunrise Court — they weren’t doing anything wrong, they said.

Payne said he called several officials about the letters, including Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes, the city attorney, and the city building inspection department. On Friday, Byrnes said the city was trying to get more information from the new building owners on the extent of any heating failures.

Both Prine and Payne were researching tenants’ options. Under Minnesota law, Payne said, the new owners have to honor the existing tenants’ lease agreements.

“What we’re telling people is to pay your rent. Get a witness,” Prine said. He suggested paying by certified mail, so residents would have proof the payment was made. Money orders are also tracked, so they could be another option, Payne said.

Even that doesn’t address all of tenants’ concerns, however. Payne and Prine said they weren’t sure what would happen if a resident were to get to the end of their lease before the situation is resolved. Some residents at the meeting said they had month-to-month leases.

People with month-to-month leases likely had less protection than residents with longer leases, Payne said. But he said they might still have some time. The letters asking people to leave Sunrise Court came in the middle of a month, instead of giving tenants a full payment period like they’re supposed to, he said.

Prine said another possible option for residents might be to file an Emergency Tenant Remedy Action, to try and get the case into court.

Prine handed out a few packets of materials for housing assistance applications to people who wanted them. Payne said he also spoke to the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce. They could be a resource for people looking for a new place to live, with information on available rentals in the area, he said.

Prine encouraged residents not to vandalize or damage the apartments, even if frustrations were running high. Tenants need to be “sticking together and doing what we need to do,” he said.